Michelle Kessler cuts right to the chase.
“I tell people, ‘This is your chance to save the bees and the butterflies and save yourself, too.’”
Kessler is the volunteer coordinator of the Prairie Stewards, a group of volunteers that assist The Nature Conservancy and National Park Service with the preservation and restoration of prairies in Kansas. Most, but not all, of their work is conducted at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.
In the first two years since the group organized, Prairie Stewards spent more than 700 hours on projects ranging from bird and butterfly surveys to seed collection to plant and restoration monitoring.
“One of our goals is to have a pool of people we can call on, sometimes on short notice,” says Kessler. “Not everyone can come to every workday, but I can put the word out ‘Hey, it’s been really dry this week, can anyone come help water the restoration plots?”
“Without the Prairie Stewards, we just wouldn’t be able to take on all the restoration projects we’d like to,” says Kristen Hase, acting superintendent at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. “Sometimes a group of ten people can accomplish more in one day on a project than what a ranger could get to all summer.”
Kessler says its great to spend time with like-minded people who care about our prairies but there’s another benefit.
“We get to spend time in parts of the preserve that the regular visitor doesn’t have access to. And we get to learn from the professionals at TNC and the park service.”